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Good data drives better revenues

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Providing customer-facing financial services employees with better access to data leads to more revenue, reduced customer churn, and increased customer satisfaction, according to the findings of a global study by WSJ Insights, sponsored by Qlik.

According to the study, more than four in five (83%) of financial services executives agree that fully leveraging financial and customer data into analytical insights would represent an increase of at least five percent of their annual revenue.  But less than one out of five companies allows access to information and data consistently across all departments or teams, including customer-facing employees on the corporate frontlines who could benefit from having the information to better serve customers.

The study, which surveyed 300 global financial services leaders, confirms that while financial services companies have access to powerful insights from their data, often this data does not make its way to employees at the edge of the organisation – those who are customer-facing and need it the most.

While a majority of respondents rate their analytics function as ‘highly effective’ in terms of two primary objectives: capturing customer information (86%) and securing/safeguarding data (80%), only about half the respondents say their organisation is effective at gaining a clear understanding about who needs what information (51%).

A majority agree that customer-facing functions will be a priority for expansion of volume and variety of available data (55%), and that they will carry out a major transformation of the entire analytics function (52%).

“There’s gold in these servers, and the trick is how we extract that gold from the ore,” says JR Reed, a senior manager for financial analytics at Deloitte Consulting.  “Data is an asset, a very important asset. Companies have been gathering this information about their markets and their customers. They’ve been accumulating all of this information that they can use to positively impact their customer and positively impact their business.”

Additional key findings include:

* Organisations are challenged by communications issues and data complexity: One of the top internal challenges to getting information to the right people is the fact that information is spread across a myriad of different, often mutually incompatible systems (42%). Other problems include critical information being lost due to poor communication (43%) and a lack of recognition of data as a shared corporate asset (41%). In terms of external challenges, a majority of respondents agree that information is frequently too complex to be processed, analysed, and disseminated in a timely fashion.

* Banks lag other financial industries in understanding who needs what information: Banking leaders are more likely than those from other industries to say that their analytics functions are highly effective (88% compared to 76% for other industries). But only a minority report high levels of effectiveness indicating that improvements are needed – especially in an environment where smaller, more disruptive companies are finding new ways to capitalise on their customers. According to the survey, the sector’s analytics functions lag other industries regarding their understanding of who needs what information (45% compared to 55%). This disconnect is troublesome considering that banking leaders are more inclined than those from other sectors to believe that their customer-facing employees are highly confident in making the most of such information.

* Capital markets organisations are highly effective in getting information to those who need it most, but lack confidence: Capital markets respondents are much more likely than their counterparts to say that their data analytics functions are highly effective at getting vital information to those who need it the most (52% rating the function at least eight out of 10 for effectiveness, compared to 32% in other industries). Yet only 42% of capital markets executives believe that line of business leaders, department heads, and managers are highly confident in using such information to support business decisions or improving customer outcomes  In addition, just 36% believe that customer-facing employees are highly confident in fully utilising information. Most (58%) say they plan to expand the volume and variety of information available across the organisation with a particular emphasis on customer-facing functions.

* Insurance organisations are less likely to make customer information consistently available to all departments and functions: Insurance respondents are more likely than counterparts in banking and capital markets to say their organisation collects data from multiple sources and have access to it from anywhere (46% compared to 38% in other industries). Yet they are least likely to say that their data analytics function excels at getting vital data to business units that need it most (26% versus 45%), and also least likely to say the organisation allows access to information sources and data consistently across all departments, including customer-facing employees (14% versus 20%).

* Challenges standing in the way of self-service data access vary by company size: Small firms are most challenged by practical difficulties such as internal communications, systems interoperability, information complexity, and lack of standards, while large firms are most challenged by organisational issues such as data ownership issues, end-user training, and accountability of senior leadership. Large firms are most likely to say that they plan to carry out a major transformation of their analytics function (57% compared to 52% overall) and to expand the volume and variety of information available across the organisation while prioritising customer-facing functions (67% compared to 55%). Small firms are more likely to say they will invest in new data infrastructure, including delivery platforms for users across the organisation (52% compared to 47%).

“Financial services firms face the analytical perfect storm: the greatest complexity and frequency of data, combined with the rapid-fire questions that come from the business,” said Duncan Ash, senior director: global financial services at Qlik. “The person who can act the fastest in a volatile market stands to profit the most from their decisions, incentivising business and technology teams to work in unison.”